E-Cigarettes’ Airtime May Be Short-Lived if US Feds Decide to Regulate

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It’s been more than 40 years since Big Tobacco aired a commercial on television, but they’re back with their billions to convince consumers to try a confounding new product: e-cigarettes. 

But the industry’s answer to public smoking bans may not have that long to sell themselves on televison. USA Today reports that the US government is making moves towards regulating the devices, which are purported to be a better alternative to regular cigarettes. 

The battery-powered devices made to resemble real cigarettes use nicotine but don’t create smoke or ashes that can be offensive to others. The devices are predicted to bring in $1.7 billion in revenue this year and at least $10 billion by the end of 2017.[more]

Lorillard chairman and chief executive Murray Kessler told the Wall Street Journal that his company concentrates on a black penlike e-cigarette because the white one causes confusion and discomfort to those who don’t realize it isn’t a cigarette. “We make a white and a black [e-cigarette],” he told the Journal. “When we put them side by side in a store, the black outsells the white eight to one.”

The New York Times notes that e-cigarette makers are pulling out all the stops for ads, including using “celebrities, catchy slogans and sports sponsorships”—all the things big tobacco has been forbidden to use when marketing traditional cigarettes.

For instance, Blu e-cigarettes employs TV personality Jenny McCarthy as a spokesperson, while the just started IMG Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week is under fire for (once again) accepting sponsorship from the NJOY Kings electronic cigarettes brand, which is also sponsoring the upcoming London Fashion Week.

The jump in marketing for the controversial devices is striking fear in anti-smoking advocates who fear that 40 years of curbing the smoking industry could go to waste. 

While the US government could announce plans to regulate the products as early as October, there lies a large problem in the fact that there hasn’t been much research conducted into how e-cigarettes affect health and the general safety of the products. Despite the lack of information, people are experimenting: 6 percent of all US adults tried them in 2011, while 21 percent of smokers have lit up e-cigs in that same year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

With over 200 e-cigarette companies in existence, the Feds have their work cut out for them. 

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